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First Comprehensive Presentation of Wilhelm Sasnal's Work Outside Poland Opens in Dusseldorf
Wilhelm Sasnal, Partisans, 2005, Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, Courtesy Wilhelm Sasnal. © Wilhelm Sasnal.

DUSSELDORF.- The exhibition at K21 is the first comprehensive presentation of Wilhelm Sasnal’s work outside Poland where he was born in 1972. It offers an extensive overview of the ten years from his studies until today and will be shown only in Düsseldorf.

This show comprises 89 pictures and is organised around recurring central topics in the artist’s oeuvre. Among these works are paintings not only of his family and friends but also historical figures. Further topics are the continuity of modernity symbolised by flying, but also the depiction of intimate feelings, cliché-ridden views of Sasnal’s hometown Krakow, and the ubiquity of the church in Poland.

Sasnal’s painting style developed during the first postcommunist decade in Krakow. At that time, he belonged to a group of like-minded artists who opposed academic tradition. The group Ładnie (pretty) was made up of painters who were concerned with a realistic kind of art in the broadest sense which emulated popular imagery in an intentionally simple way. Sasnal concentrated on everyday objects and consumer items in his own environment such as clothing, entertainment electronics and also long distance travel offers. The choice of these motifs and their deceptively naïve portrayal show a panorama of experiences made by a society on the brink of capitalism. Subsequently the artist developed an increasingly extensive array of pictorial options ranging from the techniques of illustrative commercial art to almost complete abstraction, and from expressive approaches borrowed from popular painting to autonomous gestures made with a brush.

Wilhelm Sasnal is not an artist with a comprehensive pictorial programme aimed at continuing along a previously chosen route. On the contrary -- every picture is a singular event. This applies not only to his chosen motifs, which are usually inspired by photographs, but also to his pictorial style. Even when painting a succession of pictures on one topic, he does not aim for re-identification or variety. Instead, his interest lies in the impression of the specific picture in question. Intuition, spontaneity but also a kind of critical distance play an important role: “Painting sometimes reminds me of a pointless knack which is perfect but lacks wit and energy. I want to keep as much distance as possible from what I am doing so that I can observe it from a broader perspective. When I’m painting I have the feeling that I know nothing. Often it is the picture and not I that takes the lead” (Wilhelm Sasnal)

Besides painting, Sasnal has also always made films. The short, atmospheric 8- and 16- millimetre films he made in previous times are defined by certain situations and were sometimes shown in connection with his pictures. However, he recently created his first 35-millimetre feature film. “Swineherd” (2009) is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Swineherd” and deals with the story of a love triangle which takes place in rural Poland after the Second World War.

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